Mission To Ski Tour Up Mount Yotei and Ski the Crater

Ski touring Japan


Our Backcountry Editor had a mission to ski tour up Yotei, the legendary volcano overlooking Niseko and ski into the crater but he had to wait and see if the weather would provide the window of opportunity...

Something that was pretty high on the agenda on our Japow road trip was the ascent of Mount Yotei, a dormant volcano peaking at 1898m. We had our first view of this stunner on our way from the airport to our hotel and firmed up the need to ski tour up.

However there was no guarantee that we’d be able to attempt it as it’s very often cloaked in cloud and extremely windy at the summit. We aimed for Thursday, as the forecast looked promising, but as I pulled back the curtains at 5:30am to fog, my heart sank. No worries, our guide arrived and said it was just fog in the valley.

ski touring Mount Yotei

We arrived at the trailhead at 7am with the rest of the group and set off through the beautiful forest to our goal. There were seven of us plus guides and staff from Sherpas Ride and the pace was full-on as the weather can change rapidly on the volcano and it’s an inhospitable place to be if that happens.

Stopping every hour or so to take on energy bars and fluid, we got to around 400m below the summit and the fun started, strong winds had turned the snow to boilerplate and we had to fit our ski crampons to stay on the hill.

A couple of hundred metres later (and a few choice words during the many kickturns) the slope eased and it was a final slog to the summit, a five hour climb up from the trailhead.

OMG, what a sight. To be on the rim of a volcano looking down into the crater one way and out over Niseko in the other direction is quite something!

I was pretty wasted by this point and was going to pass on skiing the crater, but 10 minutes later the first of our group went off and I got instant FOMO and dropped in after him (see tracks below)!

ski touring Mount Yotei

As we were the first up that day, it was untracked, hard-packed powder that skied like spring snow. Result.

Skinned back out again and our guides from Sherpas Ride, David and Tomas, found a great line all the way down to the start point and the snow only got heavy for the last 200 vertical metres or so.

All in all an awesome day in some very capable company including Tomas Klaus, multiple world ski cross champion from the Czech Republic, a strong group! Really fortunate to have achieved this as the weather is often a party pooper for this trip! 

Main image: Katerina Ampapova